On 4th December 2020, freelance journalist Mahmud Tim Kargbo was summoned to appear before a Freetown magistrate court and was charged, under Section 3 of the Public Order Act, with having shared 'insulting' and 'scurrilous' information via Facebook and WhatsApp which has evoked the 'annoyance' of assistant police inspector Patrick A. T. Johnson.
#SierraLeone journalist Mahmud Tim Kargbo charged over police reporting— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) December 19, 2020
Sierra Leone authorities should immediately drop all charges against journalist Mahmud Tim Kargbo and allow him to work freely - @pressfreedom https://t.co/BfhRkwnp42
Journalist charged for sharing 'insulting' and 'scurrilous' information via social media
On 4th December 2020, freelance journalist Mahmud Tim Kargbo was summoned to appear before a Freetown magistrate's court and was charged, under Section 3 of the Public Order Act, for having shared 'insulting' and 'scurrilous' information via Facebook and WhatsApp which has evoked the 'annoyance' of assistant police inspector Patrick A. T. Johnson. The charges relate to a Facebook post in which Kargbo alleges fraud and abuse of power by the assistant police inspector. After being charged, Kargbo was taken into custody and spent two hours at the Pademba Road Prison before he was released on bail. According to the journalist, who spoke with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), he appeared in court on 9th and 14th December 2020. Angela Quintal of CPJ said:
'Sierra Leone’s criminal laws, including the recently amended Public Order Act, clearly need further revision to ensure that journalists do not face jail time for their work.'
Obscenity, threats, and other actions which have the intent to annoy or insult are criminalised under Section 3 of the 1965 Public Order Act. Sierra Leone recently removed Part 5 of the law, which criminalises libel.
Judicial harassment of journalist beaten by military officers
On 19th November 2020, investigative journalist Fayia Amara Fayia appeared in a magistrate's court for the tenth time on charges of assault, disorderly conduct and obstruction of a security officer’s duties. As reported previously on the Monitor, Fayia was attacked and beaten by soldiers for having photographed a new COVID-19 quarantine centre in Sierra Leone. According to the journalist, at least ten soldiers hit him with their guns, kicked him and seized his mobile phone. After the attack, Fayia was denied medical attention and charged with assault and disorderly conduct.
President signs law repealing criminal sedition
On 28th October 2020, Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio assented to a law that repeals Section 5 of the 1965 Public Order Act which criminalises libel and sedition. The law was approved by the Parliament in July 2020, as reported previously on the Monitor.